What’s going on in the Big 12 and beyond? I expand and explain every Sunday in Postscripts at Heartland College Sports, your home for independent Big 12 coverage.
This week, back to Gonzaga, more Big 12 basketball previews and, hey, there’s controversy coming to Manhattan.
Back to the Zags
So … remember when there were reports of the Big 12 moving on from luring Gonzaga or UConn to the conference after they got the Four Corners schools back in August?
Well, turns out … not so much — at least when it comes to Gonzaga.
Earlier this week Seth Davis, who now writes for The Messenger, reported that in the past two weeks “(Big 12 commissioner Brett) Yormark has conducted several top-level conversations and negotiations with Gonzaga about that school joining the Big 12, possibly as early as 2024.”
So, that’s a bit of an about-face.
So, why now? Well, if you’re going to bring Gonzaga into the league next fall, then you pretty much need to get something done quickly. The Bulldogs need to let the West Coast Conference they’re leaving and there’s probably a buyout to pay. Wait too long and it might not happen until 2025.
The TV contract for the next half-dozen years is baked in. There’s no room for Gonzaga in that, but it doesn’t sound like the Zags are asking for a full share (nor should they get one without adding a football team, which isn’t on the table). This deal, if it happens, may be similar to the deal that Cal, Stanford and SMU in which they took a reduced share to join the league. Gonzaga can probably handle the deficit until the next TV deal is struck.
And that’s really what Yormark is eyeing here — the long game. He’s been clear about the fact that he believes college basketball is undervalued in the overall media landscape and has a desire to pursue a basketball-only television contract when the Big 12’s next TV is set to be negotiated. Getting Gonzaga now could help the Big 12 later.
And for those of you that are skeptical of this, I get it. But the fact is that Gonzaga has built itself into a national brand in the past two decades and the idea of Gonzaga playing annual league games with teams like Kansas, Baylor and Houston will entice TV executives.
Now, other reports made it clear that not every current Big 12 president is on board. But they’ve empowered Yormark to continue for now. Part of the math will be that the rest of Gonzaga’s sports will reportedly be part of the deal. That could be a deal-breaker for some travel-conscious presidents.
But for now, we wait. I’m sure Yormark will be asked about it this week in Kansas City at Big 12 Basketball Media Days.
Big 12 Basketball Preview
The 2023-24 Big 12 basketball season will be here before you know. We’re less than a month away from season openers and Big 12 Media Days is in Kansas City this Tuesday and Wednesday, where you’ll find myself and Joe Tillery for two days (so stop by and say hello).
I know everyone is focused on football but I’m paying attention to basketball for you, and each week here in Postscripts I’ll link to all of our preview material for the next season in the best basketball conference in the country.
Kansas State’s Percolating QB Controversy
I was watching the first part of the Texas Tech-Kansas State game and saw quarterback Avery Johnson pop in for a possession. That’s not altogether startling. He’s done some time in a couple of games this season. But, neither was a conference game.
But, Johnson led the Wildcats to a touchdown on that drive. So, what happens next?
Johnson returns on the next drive. Not Will Howard. The drive ended with a three-and-out with a punt.
Howard returned on the next drive, but for the remainder of the first half they shared playing time, at times on the same possession.
Johnson gave the Wildcats a jolt, but the true freshman has limitations. He’s an excellent running quarterback but hasn’t had a chance to consistently throw the ball in college. He only passed nine times on Saturday — the same as Howard. He went 8-for-9 by the way.
But the running? Well, Johnson rushed 12 times for 91 yards and five touchdowns. Yes, five. It tied a Kansas State record, held in part by his offensive coordinator, Collin Klein.
So, yes, it looks like we have a good old-fashioned quarterback controversy.
Will head coach Chris Klieman go back to Howard or ride the hot hand with Johnson? After the game, he told reporters that it was too early to say and that it might be a week-to-week thing. He also said he needed both quarterbacks to win.
Remember a few weeks ago I wrote here about Oklahoma State’s quarterback issues? The old saying ‘If you have two quarterbacks you have none?’
Thinking of that as I’m writing this.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.